Saturday, 3 January 2015

Argus Brewery

While in Chicago to celebrate my 30th birthday, my partner and I ambitiously trekked out to the Argus Brewery for a tour. This involved traveling to the end of a train line, hopping a bus, and then walking for a bit--totally worth it.

We arrived at a historical building, with a small notice indicating that we should ring the bell for the brewery tour. Upon ringing, a wildly friendly bloke ushered us into a small reception area and we joined a handful of other intrepid beer fans waiting for the tour to begin and sampling a fine pale ale to pass the time. Once we were all assembled, the "brewery historian" (best job ever?) guided us outside and told us about the brewery building's past. It turns out that Argus is housed in a former stable for the Schlitz Brewing Co., a fact that Argus' owners were unaware of when they decided to set up shop there.

After a brief discussion, the tour headed inside, to the brewery's cozy tap room. Once there, we were all provided with a pint glass and instructed that if it was empty, that was our own fault. The tap room was well appointed--covered in cool stuff, much of it bearing the Argus logo, as well as a pool table and shuffleboard.  Our hosts informed us that they thought the best way to tour a brewery was to get comfortable and to familiarize ourselves with the beer first, so to that end, we spent over an hour in the tap room sampling generous measures of five of Argus' regular offerings: a wheat ale brewed for Jarrett Payton (son of Walter), a nice marzen, the pale ale we'd already tried on entering, a "Chicago common", and the obligatory craft IPA. As well, they had a keg of an experimental dry stout that was none too shabby. To my mind, the pale and IPA were the best, though I thought the common and marzen were also quite nice. The wheat ale was a "take it or leave it" brew, as far as I was concerned. To both of our surprise, my spouse (normally only a pale lager tippler) really enjoyed five out of six beers, and was particularly enamoured with the marzen. She even liked the pale ale, though, predictably, the IPA was a bit too much for the ol' girl.

Once we were suitably lubricated and had spent some time chatting with our hosts and fellow patrons, the tour began in earnest. Having toured a silly number of breweries, the beer-making process portion tends to feel the same everywhere, though our guide was admirably well-informed, open to questions, and most importantly, instantly likable. Also, the tour was made more interesting with the inclusion of a handful of the type of amusing anecdotes that you only seem to get from people who really care about their work and want to share it with others.

Highlights of the tour included a look at the brewery's historic and still functioning freight elevator, which had wooden rails and had once been used to hoist horses, and a very cool Chicago police carousel horse whose hindquarters had been fashioned into beer taps.

If you're in Chicago, the Argus Brewery tour is not to be missed. For $15, you get a nice pint glass, a belly full of good suds, and a pretty interesting little tour. Leave the car at home and clear your schedule!

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